Starting Over: Exercise Plans for the Aging

How do I start?

Develop a plan for an exercise program and stick with it.  Make your exercise program an couple walkingintegral part of your normal daily activities-or use normal daily activities to help your muscles and bones become as healthy as possible:

  • Research shows that “functional exercises”- those that mimic actual daily activities, such as walking up and down stairs and getting in and out of a chair, can be quite effective.
  • Some research suggests that people who live in two-story houses are less prone to certain types of heart disease.  Repeatedly climbing a flight of stairs or rising from and returning to a seated position helps build leg strength and aerobic fitness.  If you hold a weight during these exercises, you can increase your level of physical activity even further.
  • Household chores, such as vacuuming, loading and emptying the dishwasher, and moving wet laundry from the washer to the dryer, one piece at a time, can increase strength and flexibility.  To protect your spine, keep your back as straight as possible and lift with your legs, when necessary.

I have arthritis.  How can I exercise safely?

Many people with rheumatic conditions are physically inactive.  Prolonged periods of inactivity; however, will often make your joints stiff and painful.  But, in most cases, you can and should exercise.  In fact, recent research has shown that older people with arthritis gain modest improvements in physical function, pain, general mobility, and flexibility when participating in long-term exercise programs.   Water-based exercises, such as swimming or “water walking,” can work on joints without putting them through the stress of weight-bearing.  If necessary, your doctor can show you how to use a cane, a walker, or other assistive devices to help prevent falls and injuries while you are physically active.

The following exercises are most frequently recommended for patients with arthritis:

  • Range of Motion exercises (stretching and dance):  This helps maintain joint movement and increase joint flexibility.  Can be done daily and should be done at least every other day.
  • Strengthening exercises such as weight lifting:  This helps improve muscle strength, which is important to support and protect joints affected by arthritis.  Should be done every other day, unless pain and swelling are severe.
  • Aerobic or endurance exercises such as walking, bicycle riding, and swimming.  This helps improve the cardiovascular system and muscle tone and control weight.  Swimming is especially valuable because of its minimal risk of stress injuries and low impact on the body.  Should be done for 20-30 minutes three times a week unless pain and swelling are severe.

What fitness program will help me the most?

The best exercise program is the one that is tailored to your individual health status.  Ask our doctors at Cole Pain Therapy Group to help you plan the fitness program that is right for you.  Our doctors not only help to restore muscle and joint function that has been affected by injury, illness, and age-related conditions such as arthritis, but they can also maintain the health and flexibility of your muscles and bones.  They often prescribe exercise to prevent and treat many of these conditions, helping older patients to remain active and dependent.  Our doctors can also give you nutrition and supplementation advice that can be helpful in controlling and reducing joint inflammation.

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